In October 2009, Oprah sat down with former heavyweight Mike Tyson to discuss his fight with Evander Holyfield, the death of his daughter and his relationship with ex-wife Robin Givens.
When the subject of Mike and Robin's 1988 interview with Barbara Walters came up, Mike said that Robin told lies about him. "At that particular moment, I truly wanted to sock her, but I just didn't do it," he said. "I have socked her before, and she socked me before, as well. It was just that kind of relationship."
After the show aired, Oprah received a letter from Robin, who is now the spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Robin says she was disturbed and saddened by how Oprah handled parts of the interview. "I was really, really hurt," she says. "It's tough for all women to experience this. It's tough to have a man say it and feel that it's no big thing."
When Mike said he wanted to "sock" Robin after the Barbara Walters interview, the audience laughed. Robin says she was upset that Oprah didn't say ask them to stop. "I wouldn't be honest if I didn't [say] there wasn't a part of me that wanted you to ... say, 'That's not right,'" she says. "When there is this laughter, if you are in that situation out there, it kind of lightens it for all the women that are experiencing it."
Oprah says she thinks the audience laughed because they were uncomfortable and they reacted to Mike's word choice. "When you think of 'sock,' you think of a cartoon character. Most people don't use the word 'sock,'" she says. "I don't think that they were laughing at you. I think they were laughing at the term."
Regardless, Oprah apologizes for not handling the situation better. "In that moment, I will tell you, I felt that I should have said something. I felt that I should have said, 'Audience, that isn't funny' or, 'Audience, this is really serious,'" she says. "So I regretted even in that moment. ... I would say to you and to every woman who's ever been hit, I feel that I did not handle that as well as I should have. And I feel that I could have gone further and should have said more to clarify that what he was doing and what he was saying was wrong. So I apologize to you and to every woman who has ever been in that situation."
Robin says Mike's inability to take responsibility for his actions has a negative effect on the way abused women are viewed. "It affects where they are in their healing process because it's so hard. Some women aren't believed," she says. "I know the pain that I've gone through. If I can lessen it, their time, then it'll make what I went through mean something."
In fact, Robin says she's now been asked if she considers herself an abuser. "I said, 'I cannot allow this man to do this to me, to now give me another title that doesn't belong to me," she says. "I didn't cause [the abuse]. And any woman out there going through this, you're not causing it. And we have to get the perpetrators to really own up to it."
Oprah thanks Robin again for her letter. "I hope you accept my apology. My apology to you and every other woman out there who's been abused," she says.